My name is Gerry Corcoran from Toronto, Canada. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2008 at age 54.
I was fortunate that my doctor was proactive. Because my mother had had a fracture, he was concerned that this disease was something common in the family. A bone mineral density test was arranged and that test revealed that I had osteoporosis. My doctor put me on medications, and he told me to increase my calcium and vitamin intake. I did that for several years. A few years ago I went for a routine physical and the doctor told me that my vitamin D level was low. As a result my medication was not being absorbed properly, so he told me to increase my vitamin D levels to 4000 international units daily. After about a month of that the doctor called me into his office and told me I no longer had osteoporosis but osteopenia, a positive development really, as that indicates that my bone density has improved.
I don’t think that having osteoporosis has changed my life all that much. I am conscious that I need to exercise and need to take long walks because weight bearing exercises are very beneficial for people with osteoporosis. Now, when I go to the office where I volunteer, I walk there. It’s about a one and a half hour walk (almost 4 miles). It gives me a bit of a cardio work-out and the weight bearing exercise I need. I know that some people are scared that they may have a fracture. A few weeks ago I was on my way to the office and the sidewalk was kind of uneven, so I tripped.
I fell on my face and cut myself a bit and I thought “oh no, I have done it this time, I gave myself a fracture” but I was fine and nothing was broken. In fact, my latest medical report told me that I was not at a significant risk for fractures.
I also watch my diet and am conscious of foods that are rich in calcium or vitamin D. In the old days I used to throw out that little column of bones in a can of salmon, now I grind it up into the salmon. I know that I should eat more leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale – but although I like broccoli, I’m not a fan of kale. Dairy products are good, they are helpful. I know a lot of people were put off by the cholesterol scares of the last few years, so they stopped taking dairy products and as a result I’m sure some people ended up damaging their bone health because their dairy intake decreased.
I am not worried about osteoporosis or osteopenia, although I am conscious that there are greater risks of fracture.
I used to jump out of a bus, much like a parachuter on D Day, but I no longer do that. I am very careful how I step out of a vehicle, or step out of a bus or anything like that, because I know that fractures can be very serious and very painful.
When I retired in May of 2010, I decided I would call Osteoporosis Canada and offer to do some volunteer work for them. The National Education manager encouraged me to come in and have an interview with her. I now do a little bit of volunteer work, such as answering the phone, speaking to people, counselling them, and sending out information packages. Sometimes I work on processing the receipts that come in from the various donations that people make.
I find that it actually helps people when they call to talk to somebody who has osteoporosis or has personal experience with osteoporosis. It makes them feel a lot better and it makes me feel better too - I’m doing something worthwhile, something that can help even if just in a very small way.
People should not think that because they’ve got this condition, that it’s the end of the world. You can take medications, you can take vitamins, you can do exercise, and you should follow your doctor’s advice. And don’t worry too much about it. That’s one thing I can recommend to everyone.